We are all going down this road together

FTLComm - Tisdale - Sunday, October 1, 2006, Images by: Judy Shire

There is a pretty convincing rumour going around about the planet getting warmer, much warmer, actually it has been doing just that for the last half of the last century and there are signs that the process is accelerating.

This poses some fascinating and challenging questions for us as a species, because with only a small amount of research, it is pretty clear that the planet earth has warmed and cooled many many times during its four billion years of life. Each of these changes having occurred pretty much as a result of minor alterations in geology, biological life on the planet and the occasional collision with other space objects.

As short a time span as fifteen thousand years ago, a mere wink of the eye in the earth's life, where I am sitting right now would be about six hundred feet beneath the surface of ice that plundered the northern hemisphere, altering the landscape and allowing massive changes to the plant and animal life in this area, Even more significant, bringing humans to this part of the planet. Now the world's climate zones are migrating away from the equator as Montana weather moves into Southern Saskatchewan and the tundra moves north into the normally frozen high arctic. The world's ice caps are melting and the glaciers in the alpine regions of the world are simply vanishing.

As the place heats up and all that water, once frozen, drains into the ocean, the oceans themselves are rising and the atmosphere becomes a whole lot more volatile as serious storms become normal occurrences.

Amazing as it may seem, there are a lot of people with economic reasons who are not all that enthusiastic about considering what might be causing the problem. The burning of carbon dioxide producing fuels seems to be pretty clearly a major culprit and the major oil and gas producing and consuming parts of the world, are into major denial. Scientist are pretty much in agreement about the whole thing, though there are a few rogue dissenters, but that is perfectly normal. Such a big issue is going to have a lot of pretty wild theories some of which could easily be true, even partly true.

However, there is a bottom line. This issue is going to affect everyone and as an old guy, I am very much concerned about it, because most of the effects are going to cause trouble, not for me, but for my children and their children. One way or another, humanity is locked into a problem that will severely impact on everyone now alive and certainly those who survive into the immediate and distant future.

I want to tell you about two places that pretty much explain the problem. Whitehorse Yukon and Los Angels California.

Whitehorse is a small city of about 16,000 people. Their city is tucked into a bit of a valley with some nice tall mountains on three sides and at times during the year, the temperature of the air above them, gets pretty cold. What happens, is the upper atmosphere produces a dense barrier that prevents air from entering the area and the air and waste gases from the community are trapped right there overhead. The consequences are remarkable, in a place were it gets cold, there has to be fuel consumed to keep people alive, transportation is necessary to move goods and services around and the place stinks. Winter environmental conditions can be lethal.

Los Angels is one of the largest cities in the world, it is in a fabulous climate with the ocean near by and the prevailing wind for some of the year is off the Pacific blowing from the northwest on the city. The problem with the place is that a solid granite barrier of mountains exists along the whole eastern side of the settlement and every bit of waste gas is trapped between the northwest wind and the mountains producing air the colour of weak tea. The air quality in the city that depends, because of sprawling nature, on private cars for transportation, is often far below acceptable safe limits.

Now here is what you need to know. Only sixty or so years ago the total population of this planet was well below two billion people and China itself is now approaching that number. Over six billion humans have swarmed into the urban areas of the world. The world is still vastly under populated, just like the Yukon, or California, most of the land is completely empty, but people are gregarious and the definitely like to live cheek by jowl with one another. In Canada we have thirty-two million people almost all living in a few urban areas, or within fifty miles of the US border. Australia is huge and empty because all of its people live in five massive urban areas.

The sun has been pumping out the same amount of energy for all of its life and yet there are drastic changes to the climate on our little blue planet. The cause of the changes are small, seemingly insignificant alterations in the environment and when we have six billion people flushing toilets, driving cars, barbecuing in their back yards and keeping themselves warm with a nice cozy fire, the once balanced environment, is certain to go out of kilter.

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions is unlikely to make any real difference to the climate as a vast number of the people do not have a lot of choices when it comes to warming themselves and earning a living. Our problem is not local to LA and Whitehorse it affects us all and we may certainly be contributing to the problem, not just by what we do in life, but by our very existence. Killing off half the population would solve the problem but seems a bit drastic, but moving two thirds of the urban population into the vast empty wilderness around them would do even better.



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Editor : Timothy W. Shire
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